Loading...
City Petition to Abate NuisancePage 1 of 9 IN THE IOWA DISTRICT COURT IN AND FOR JOHNSON COUNTY CITY OF IOWA CITY, Plaintiff, v. 220 S VAN BUREN, LLC, and GROUNDWORK, LLC, d/b/a H- BAR, Defendants. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) PETITION TO ABATE PUBLIC NUISANCE COMES NOW Plaintiff the City of Iowa City, and for its Petition against Defendants states as follows: PARTIES 1. Plaintiff City of Iowa City is a municipality organized under the laws of the State of Iowa. 2. Defendant 220 S Van Buren LLC (hereinafter “Owner”) is an Iowa limited liability company whose principal office is located at 123 N. Linn Street, Suite 300, Iowa City, Johnson County, Iowa. 3. Owner is the owner of property locally addressed as 220 S. Van Buren Street, Iowa City, Iowa and legally described as follows: The north 35 feet of Lot 5 in Block 42 in Iowa City, Iowa, according to the plat thereof recorded in Book 1, Page 116, Plat Records of Johnson County, Iowa. Also, a right-of-way over the north 5 feet of the south 35 feet of said Lot 5 n Block 42, Iowa City, Iowa, subject to easements and restrictions, if any, of record. 4. Defendant Groundwork LLC is an Iowa limited liability company whose principal office is located at 220 S. Van Buren Street, Iowa City, Johnson County, Iowa. E-FILED 2022 OCT 28 3:28 PM JOHNSON - CLERK OF DISTRICT COURT Page 2 of 9 5. Groundwork LLC (hereinafter “H-Bar”) owns and operates H-Bar, located at 220 S. Van Buren Street, Iowa City, Johnson County, Iowa. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS 6. Owner and H-Bar are parties to a commercial lease for the premises located at 220 S. Van Buren Street. 7. H-Bar is the tenant of the premises, and Owner is the landlord. 8. Owner has owned the premises at 220 S. Van Buren since June 4, 2015. 9. H-Bar advertises itself as a hookah lounge. 10. H-Bar is licensed to sell tobacco. 11. H-Bar does not have a license to sell alcohol. 12. H-Bar is not a restaurant and does not generate a significant amount of business from food sales. 13. H-Bar’s Facebook page states that it is closed Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday. 14. H-Bar’s Facebook page states that its open hours are Thursday 8:00 PM- 2:00 AM, Friday 10:00 PM-4:00 AM, and Saturday 10:00 PM-4:00 AM. 15. H-Bar opened on December 31, 2021. 16. The prior business at this location also operated as a hookah bar, known as Nile Hookah. 17. Owner knew H-Bar would operate as a hookah lounge. 18. When Owner first leased the premises to H-Bar, it was a 1,235 square foot building with an open carport on the east side of the building. E-FILED 2022 OCT 28 3:28 PM JOHNSON - CLERK OF DISTRICT COURT Page 3 of 9 19. Sometime in the spring of 2022, H-Bar expanded the original leased premise by enclosing a carport, increasing the square footage of H-Bar by nearly 15%. 20. H-Bar expanded the building without obtaining a building permit from the City of Iowa City as required by Iowa City Code of Ordinances 17-1-1. 21. Owner was aware of the expansion of H-Bar in the spring of 2022 and allowed it despite ongoing problems that arose immediately upon the H-Bar opening. 22. Calls for service to the Iowa City Police Department began on January 1, 2022 with a reported disturbance/fight in progress at 12:30 AM. 23. In total, the Iowa City Police Department has logged 173 calls for service to 220 S. Van Buren Street from January 1, 2022 to October 23, 2022. 24. The types of calls vary, from 911 hang-ups and noise complaints, foot patrol, suspicious activity and calls about armed subjects. 25. Officers have frequently observed open container of alcohol violations at 220 S. Van Buren Street. 26. In the six years between 2016 and 2021 there were a total of 23 calls for service to 220 S. Van Buren Street, for an average of 3.83 calls for service per year. 27. Since the H-Bar opened on December 31, 2021, the following serious incidents have occurred: a. A co-owner of the H-Bar was federally indicted by a grand jury on September 14, 2022 for illegal firearm possession on April 7, 2022; b. A large fight involving numerous people in a parking area adjacent to H-Bar and the alley adjacent to H-Bar on Sunday, April 10, 2022 at about 4:23 a.m.; E-FILED 2022 OCT 28 3:28 PM JOHNSON - CLERK OF DISTRICT COURT Page 4 of 9 c. An altercation immediately outside of H-Bar at about 1:20 a.m. on Sunday, June 19, 2022 where an individual was knocked unconscious, and a firearm was recovered from an individual prohibited from carrying guns; d. A shots-fired incident at 2:24 a.m. on Sunday, August 7, 2022 in the same alley leaving a young woman with multiple gunshot wounds; and e. The fatal shooting of Waymond Thomas at 1:59 a.m. on Sunday, October 23, 2022 in the alley adjacent to H-Bar, following an altercation that started inside of the H-Bar. 28. H-Bar is adjacent to a public alleyway to the North that connects S. Van Buren Street and S. Johnson Street in Iowa City. 29. The alleyway is approximately 20 feet wide. 30. On the North side of the alleyway, directly across from H-Bar, are two multi-plex apartment buildings located at 505 and 507 E. College Street. 31. To utilize the parking spaces for 505 and 507 E. College Street, the alley adjacent to H-Bar must be accessed. 32. Though the multiplexes located at 505 and 507 E. College Street are owned by a different legal entity (505-507 College LLC), the Authorized Person to sign biennial reports with the Iowa Secretary of State for both 220 S Van Buren LLC and 505-507 College LLC are the same, Bryan Clark, and both companies have the same registered agent and last filed Biennial Reports on the same date and time. 33. South of H-Bar is a gas station, L & M Mighty Shop, which is open to the public for gas and convenience store purchases. 34. East of H-Bar is a parking lot that belongs to a neighboring business. E-FILED 2022 OCT 28 3:28 PM JOHNSON - CLERK OF DISTRICT COURT Page 5 of 9 35. To the West of H-Bar is South Van Buren Street, which connects Burlington Street to College Street. The Iowa City Robert A. Lee Recreation Center is located across South Van Buren Street. 36. Quarreling, fighting, and breaches of the peace are carried on by persons at H-Bar and the immediately surrounding premises between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. This has included two shootings in the public alley between the residential multiplex at 505 and 507 E. College Street and H-Bar. 37. The fight that precipitated the shooting of Waymond Thomas also spilled into the parking area of 505 and 507 E. College Street. 38. Patrons of the H-Bar face the threat of serious bodily injury when they visit the H- Bar between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Only 11 of the 173 calls for service occurred outside of this timeframe. 39. Residents of nearby property have expressed fear for their safety due to the violent incidents that have occurred immediately surrounding the H-Bar. 40. Members of the public, including customers and staff at L & M Mighty Shop, which is open 24 hours a day, face the threat of bodily injury due to the fighting and violent crime that surrounds H-Bar. 41. Officers of the Iowa City Police Department have increased patrols around H-Bar in attempt to maintain safety in the area, and routinely devote extra resources to cover the extra patrols. However, the violent crime emanating from this property continues to escalate. 42. The Owner and H-Bar have not taken adequate measures to mitigate the public safety threat posed by the operation of H-Bar at 220 S. Van Buren Street. E-FILED 2022 OCT 28 3:28 PM JOHNSON - CLERK OF DISTRICT COURT Page 6 of 9 43. In fact, the Owner and H-Bar have expanded H-Bar since it opened, despite significant and known problems already existing there. 44. The continued operation of H-Bar between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. constitutes a public nuisance due to the continued public safety threat of violent fighting and quarreling. CAUSES OF ACTION COUNT I DECLARATORY RELIEF PUBLIC NUISANCE 45. Plaintiff realleges and incorporates the prior paragraphs of the Petition as if fully set forth herein. 46. Iowa Code § 657.1 (2021) of the Iowa Code provides that: Whatever is injurious to health, indecent, or unreasonably offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as essentially to interfere unreasonably with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property, is a nuisance, and a civil action by ordinary proceedings may be brought to enjoin and abate the nuisance and to recover damages sustained on account of the nuisance. 47. Iowa Code § 657.2(6) deems a place where quarreling, fighting, or breaches of the peace are carried on or permitted to the disturbance of others a nuisance. 48. Iowa City Code of Ordinances 6-1-2 deems whatever is injurious to senses or interferes with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property by the public or community a public nuisance. 49. Iowa City Code of Ordinance 6-1-2(S) deems a place where food, beverages, or entertainment is sold or provided for compensation, or where persons are charged to enter, upon which alcoholic beverages are consumed between 2:00 A.M. and 6:00 A.M. (8:00 A.M. on Sundays) a nuisance. E-FILED 2022 OCT 28 3:28 PM JOHNSON - CLERK OF DISTRICT COURT Page 7 of 9 50. Between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., Defendants’ operation of a hookah lounge at 220 S. Van Buren Street causes violent fighting, quarreling, and breaches of the peace in the immediately surrounding area that are dangerous and injurious to the health, comfort, and property of the public. 51. Defendants have failed to take adequate measures to reduce the violent crime emanating from the property. 52. Defendants’ conduct injures a substantial number of people and is injurious to public health and is therefore a public nuisance. WHEREFORE, Plaintiff requests that the Court enter declaratory judgment decreeing Defendants’ allowance of and operation of a hookah bar at 220 S. Van Buren Street between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. a public nuisance, reserving jurisdiction to award appropriate supplementary relief, together with all costs of this action, and for any further relief this Court deems just and proper. COUNT II PERMANENT INJUNCTIVE RELIEF 53. Plaintiff realleges and incorporates the prior paragraphs of the Petition as if fully set forth herein. 54. Unless restrained Owner and H-Bar will continue to maintain a public nuisance. 55. There is no adequate remedy at law and without the injunction requested, Defendants will continue to maintain a public nuisance. WHEREFORE, Plaintiff requests that the Court (1) enter a permanent injunction against Defendants prohibiting Defendants from maintaining a public nuisance at 220 S. Van Buren Street, namely maintaining a property where violent fighting and quarreling is carried on; (2) enter a permanent injunction against Defendants prohibiting operation of any business at 220 S. Van E-FILED 2022 OCT 28 3:28 PM JOHNSON - CLERK OF DISTRICT COURT Page 8 of 9 Buren Street between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.; and (3) enter a permanent injunction against Defendants prohibiting Defendants from operating a hookah lounge or similar establishment within the corporate limits of Iowa City between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. COUNT III TEMPORARY INJUNCTIVE RELIEF 56. Plaintiff realleges and incorporates the prior paragraphs of the Petition as if fully set forth herein. 57. Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.1501 allows the Court to issue a temporary injunction as an auxiliary remedy in any action. 58. Filed contemporaneously is an affidavit by Sergeant Paul Batcheller in support of this request for a temporary injunction showing Plaintiff is entitled to relief which restrains the continuation of the nuisance. Sergeant Batcheller is a member of the Iowa City Police Department, who has been investigating the criminal activities on the premises. 59. Defendants’ nuisance threatens the health, safety, and welfare of Plaintiff and its residents and visitors. 60. The continuation of the nuisance will greatly injure Plaintiff and its residents and visitors. 61. Plaintiff has no adequate remedy at law to abate the nuisance. 62. Plaintiff has not presented this request for a temporary injunction requesting this same relief against Defendants to or been refused in whole or in part by any judge or justice. 63. Plaintiff is entitled to a temporary injunction enjoining Defendants from continuation of the nuisance. E-FILED 2022 OCT 28 3:28 PM JOHNSON - CLERK OF DISTRICT COURT Page 9 of 9 WHEREFORE, Plaintiff requests that the Court (1) enter a temporary injunction against Defendants prohibiting Defendants from maintaining a public nuisance at 220 S. Van Buren Street, namely maintaining a property where violent fighting and quarreling is carried on; (2) enter a temporary injunction against Defendants prohibiting operation of any business at 220 S. Van Buren Street between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.; and (3) enter a temporary injunction against Defendants prohibiting Defendants from operating a hookah lounge or similar establishment within the corporate limits of Iowa City between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.; and (4) pursuant to Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.1507, that the Court set this Request for Temporary Injunction for an immediate evidentiary hearing upon reasonable notice to Defendants, and upon hearing, enter appropriate orders. Dated this 28th day of October, 2022. Respectfully submitted, IOWA CITY ATTORNEY’S OFFICE /s/ Elizabeth J. Craig_____________________ Elizabeth J. Craig ATM520022 Assistant City Attorney /s/ Jennifer L. Schwickerath________________ Jennifer L. Schwickerath ATM520023 Assistant City Attorney 410 E. Washington Street Iowa City, IA 52240 319-356-5030 icattorney@iowa-city.org ATTORNEYS FOR CITY OF IOWA CITY E-FILED 2022 OCT 28 3:28 PM JOHNSON - CLERK OF DISTRICT COURT